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9 Ways to elevate yourself from an average talker to an engaging speaker

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by Startacus Admin

Public Speak

Want to improve your public speaking skills? Marcus Grodentz from Toastmasters International shares some insights on how to do just that.  

Imagine the scene. I’m in my office looking out at the docks. Outside it is bleak and so cold that the water in the docks has frozen.

photo-1498189263721-d42d6bcc2ad1Suddenly the telephone rings. Picking up I hear a breathless panicky voice.

“I need your help Marcus – we have to save a life.”

That was the first time I heard about Snowy the chick and found myself at the beginning of a nine-month long publicity campaign.

I hope I’ve illustrated the point that when you are giving a talk you need to immediately grab the attention of your audience. Your aim is to get them interested and involved from your first word or action.

I could have started by focusing on my role as the Head of Public Relations for Gloucester City Council and outlining the key points about publicity campaigns that I was going to cover. That tends to be the standard approach.

But as entrepreneurs you know you need to standout and standard approaches won’t necessarily cut the mustard.

The art of public speaking in involves a range of skills so let me share what I have learned so that you can elevate your own speaking and use it as you build your business.

Be clear on your goal

It is an old saying but true none the less. What sort of talk are you giving? Are you sharing information, are you pitching? What do you want your speaking opportunity to achieve?

Audience Research

Do you know who is in your audience? That is important because to some extent that dictates the type of language you use. Many speakers use technical terms or acronyms unfamiliar to their listeners. If for example, you are talking to potential investor who know your industry that is fine but if they don’t the jargon may mean that you lose them. They’ll be too busy figuring out the technical stuff to keep listening to you.

Be patient

If you are giving a talk whether in person or online don’t rush to start. Wait. Wait until your audience is settled. Wait until they are all looking at you and then and only then begin.

Use some drama

pexels-photo-3719037Any TV or film drama you watch starts with a cliff-hanger of some sort. It can last several minutes. Only then do the titles roll. Start your talk with something dramatic. Grab attention.
Get your audience engaged. Then take your audience on a journey that arrives somewhere. You need to make sure that your ending has some relationship to where you started. Complete the circle. Leave your audience feeling complete.

Consider your word choice

Your choice of words is important. You have the whole lexicon of the English language to help illustrate and describe your story. For example, there is a world of difference between ‘considering an opportunity’ and ‘grabbing an opportunity with both hands.’

Pace and pitch

Vocal variety is another key element. How many times have you heard other entrepreneurs go through their entire story/talk/presentation at the same pitch? It becomes monotonous, even tedious. 

If you have something dramatic to say you might want to speed up and perhaps raise your tone. If you have something sensitive, you can slow down and lower your tone. When you are sharing important information take a pause.

Allow your audience time to absorb and digest it. Pausing is also a great way to cut down on Ums and Ahs.

Don’t duck behind your slides

One of my pet hates is the overuse of PowerPoint. In some situation you may be required to use it, but it is important to avoid having it as a prop to hide behind.

Visual props are good but only if they are an integral part of your talk and will help you influence your audience and achieve your goal.

Walk your talk

pexels-photo-8344902.Incorporating body language into your talk raises it to another dimension. If we were meeting in person, we would never dream of giving a talk sitting down but many people have got used to sitting for online meetings. I am from the school which says if you are a speaker you stand. It actually isn’t that difficult to rearrange your desk and camera angles to enable you to do that. Sitting down with your face filling the screen robs you of the ability to use your body and to take advantage of your screen stage. What you do get is the occasional hand waving across the screen.

If for any reason, you are unable to stand, then move your chair further back from the camera so that the audience can see more of you. You’ll be in a better position to take advantage of using body language to engage with audience members.

Good speaking is part of your entrepreneurial toolkit so use these tips to help you develop your skills and elevate your speaking to a new and higher level. Set aside time to rehearse that will help you try out new things and make sure you can say what you need to in your allotted time.

One of the tips I share above was to make sure you come full circle and connect your ending with your beginning.

What about Snowy? He was hatched in a Rare Breed Centre during a blizzard and was the only one of his clutch to survive.

The phone call I described was to launch an appeal for other chicks to be donated so that he could survive by huddling with them. The appeal was successful, and he thrived. So much so that he became a media celebrity! He helped us to promote the council’s services in a variety of ways. He had a wonderful career before retiring at the centre.

Snowy has become part of my speaking repertoire. It isn’t just about saving a cute chick. It is about how you can take one story and approach it from a different angle to keep it alive and fresh. How you construct and present it means that you can keep it constantly new, revised and interesting. Think about the stories that you can bring into your talks and presentations. How can you use them to make yourself and your startup memorable?


Marcus Grodentz is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. 




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Published on: 21st February 2022

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